Each morning it was as if angels attended to each of us as we started our day. The warm rays of the morning sun gently touched our faces with her soothing fingertips. The vibrant flowers, daffodils, sunflowers, and honeysuckle vines ignited our vision, the eclectic sounds of birds chirping, hummingbirds hovering, and the buzz of bumblebees awakened our hearing, and the fresh smells of the morning lured us from our beds.
“…See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.” (Matthew 6:28)
When I was a child life was full of vivid colors and soothing sounds. These sights and sounds stamped good memories on my heart and mind. The place I remember most from my childhood is Morristown, Tennessee. It is an idyllic town in the hill county of East Tennessee. The epicenter of my existence was 323 Branner Street, my grandmother’s house. Grandmother’s house sat just below the summit of a steep hill. The fields cascading down from the crest of the hill ignited in the spring with, deep yellow sunflowers, vibrant blue wildflowers, pink, yellow, and orange dandelions. Each flower yawned and basked in the warmth of the sun like small birds waiting to be fed. On windy days the tall grass would bend gently with each gentle breeze.
In the back of the house was a garden and beside the garden was a trail that was bordered by unpainted wooden fences that stretched across grandmother’s back yard creating a safe barrier from the sloping hill that led down to wild blackberry trails and untamed woods. Each year in the spring, the fence would become entwined with emerald green vines from which violet, white, and pink honeysuckles budded and bloomed throughout the season. The honeysuckle vines were most memorable because their sent started and ended each day. Mornings were glorious times there atop Branner Street.
Each morning it was as if angels attended to each of us as we started our day. The warm rays of the morning sun gently touched our faces with her soothing fingertips. The symphonic sounds of the season were perfectly orchestrated. Birds chirping, the wings of hummingbirds hovering over the honeysuckle vines, and the buzz of bumblebees flying from flower to flower. The garden and the fields seemed to be in perpetual motions as the moths, butterflies, beetles, and other colorful insects moved about amongst the plants and flowers.
The only thing that paralleled the beauty of the living colors and the accompanying sounds were the smells. The sweet aromas of jasmine, lilac, honeysuckle, and roses. After lying in bed for a few minutes the scent of nature gave way to the smells of breakfast. The rich aromatic smell of my uncle’s coffee pot, fresh toast, bacon and eggs lured us downstairs for prayer and a time of the family conversation.
After breakfast we all headed out to grandmother’s garden. We planted green beans, corn, and tomatoes. Once we finished the garden and our chores we headed out to play. We spent days hunting for beetles, butterflies, and moths. We sought after chances to hold friendly ladybugs, and when we finished, we lifted them up above our heads watching them fly into the wind. The lilies, dandelions, and other beautiful wildflowers made significant gifts for grandmother, mom and our aunt.
Each day we played until time for dinner, chasing June bugs during the late afternoons and in the evenings. During the warm summer months our favorite pastime was capturing fireflies in jars. Each night we were fascinated by their illuminating ability to light up a dark room. Each night ended with a prayer and a gentle kiss from mom or grandmother.
Winters were spent indoors near Uncle Robert’s enchanted fireplace, or at grandmother’s gas space heater waiting for hot chocolate, made with powdered chocolate, sugar, and fresh milk. When the snow came it either crept in during the silence of the night or it came as a blistering noisy winter storm. No matter how it happened, the effects were always the same. It lay a thick, soft blanket of pure white snow over the houses and the meadow. The blemished landscape transformed into a perfect three-dimensional snow globe. The houses turned into warm, cozy lodges. The broken-down “outhouse” became a place of nostalgic beauty. The rusted car hidden behind my uncle’s house became a perfectly remodeled ice mobile. The scrap wood piles, the rugged rocky hillside and everything that was unsightly was transformed into a shimmering pristine paradise. It was smooth, pure white, glistening and reflecting the unblemished light of God. It was a glorious redemptive sight that transformed our existence into a perfect paradise.
However, as the cold temperatures begin to dissipate, the sun raises the temperatures and converts the snow and ice into nutrient-laden water that nourishes the surrounding land and gardens. The surplus of water that comes from the melting snow replenishes the ponds, streams, and fills the local Mayes Reservoir.
The atmosphere atop that hill on 323 Branner Street was serene. Grandmother’s house was a winter haven, a summertime retreat, and a place our family went to rejuvenate from the exhausting troubles of life. This place, is the place of my beginnings, it was here that I came to know tranquil peace. I learned to appreciate nature…the tall grass, mustard greens, wild blackberries, strawberries, small indigenous animals, insects and the beautiful night sky which seemed within reach on clear nights in any season.
How great is Your goodness, Which You have stored up for those who fear You, Which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, before the sons of men! You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues. Blessed be the LORD, For He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me.